Round 1 of the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals got underway this past Saturday at The Wastelands in Nanaimo under sunny skies and mild temperatures that were ideal for racing.
This was the first time a CMRC sanctioned Pro Motocross National was staged on a Saturday instead of a Sunday in order to accommodate Motofest, a new entertainment formula featuring a series of rock concerts that will be part and parcel for three more upcoming nationals.
But for Team Rockstar Energy Drink OTSFF Yamaha, it was back to the business of racing after having put a long winter behind them. Everyone from the team’s riders to crewmembers were fired up to get the new season underway; picturesque Vancouver Island an ideal venue to start things off.
For the team’s MX2 contender, Shawn Maffenbeier, the opening round of the nationals proved to be much more positive than last year, when he broke his collarbone during morning practice, forcing him to sit out the four western rounds before returning to action halfway into the season.
If Maffenbeier had any reservations about the track that sent him home with injuries in 2014, he certainly didn’t show it. He oozed confidence, looked good in practice and recorded very competitive lap times in qualifying. His 3-2 moto results on Saturday afternoon, which gave him a solid second overall on the day, spoke volumes.
“I felt really good coming into Nanaimo and although it’s in the back of your mind that this was the place you crashed hard a year earlier, you quickly put that aside and just jump back into the deep end of the pool and go for it,” Maffenbeier said.
For the team’s MX1 riders, Bobby Kiniry and Kyle Chisholm, the day did not go quite as well as for Maffenbeier. But with fifth overall for Kiniry on the strength of 7-4 motos, and sixth overall for Chisholm on the strength of 6-5 motos, the two Americans scored enough points to get the ball rolling for the title hunt.
In the first MX2 moto, a lightning fast start by Maffenbeier aboard his potent YZ250 saw him dive into turn one neck-in-neck with Quebec’s Kaven Benoit. Maffenbeier wasted no time powering by Benoit not long after they got through the turn, but Benoit managed to retake the lead a few laps later.
Maffenbeier, down a few seconds from a blistering pace setting Benoit, stuck with him but never found the right opportunity to challenge for the lead. Maffenbeier remained focused on defending his second place from Jesse Wentland, who relentlessly hounded him all through the moto.
On the final lap, in the final turn just before the finish line, Maffenbeier somehow stalled his bike, with Wentland capitalizing on it to snare second place. Maffenbeier, who was practically on the finish line when he stalled, pushed his bike across to take the checkered for third.
The start of the second moto saw Maffenbeier just inside the top ten as the express train negotiated the first turn. By the fifth lap Maffenbeier had knifed his way into fourth place; around the halfway point of the moto he installed himself in second place, which he would take to the finish line.
Top starts were the order of the day for Bobby Kiniry and Kyle Chisholm in MX1 on their explosive YZ450Fs. In the first moto, Kiniry charged his way into third, went down and lost a number of positions, but still managed to salvage seventh place. In the second moto, an on fire Kiniry nailed the holeshot, only to lose the lead to Mike Alessi. Eventually Kiniry succumbed to first moto winner Colton Facciotti and then to Josh Hill who along with Alessi were racing for overall podium finishes. Kiniry ended up riding most of the moto in fifth but claimed a fourth place finish by the time the checkered was waved.
“Fifth overall is not where I wanted to be today, but it’s a long season and time for me to make amends,” Kiniry said. “The good news is we’re all still close in points and not looking at big gaps that are hard to make up ground on.”
Chisholm, who made his debut with the team in Nanaimo, rode consistently in and around fifth place in both motos, even having some battles with teammate Kiniry. Bringing in sixth overall on the day, thanks to 6-5 moto results, puts Chisholm in the mix with the title contenders, which also includes Tyler Medaglia who finished behind Chisholm in seventh overall on the strength of 5-7 motos.
“I really didn’t know what to expect today. The first race of the season is always a big question mark. And although I came here to race for a podium finish, I’m not too overly disappointed with my results,” Chisholm said.